Rutgers offensive line proves consistency against Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — They say football games are won and lost in the trenches.
And if the Rutgers offensive line was any proof of that, the Scarlet Knights would have a much better record than its 4-6 mark.
On Saturday against No. 14 Penn State, the group had another strong day — especially early on — as it paved the way for 159 yards on 4.2 yards per carry.
Maybe most notably, though, the o-line without a doubt outplayed that of Penn State. The Nittany Lions' unit surrendered two sacks and they averaged about one less yard per carry than the Knights.
Rutgers entered Saturday's contest allowing the fewest sacks in the Big Ten. It only gave up one against Penn State and it was late in the fourth quarter when the Lions had already put the game away. While the Knights' biggest weakness has been the passing game, none of that can be attributed to the offensive line, who has done more than its part in that respect.
"I think we held our own in pass protection (against Penn State) ... We gave the quarterback plenty of time in certain situations to complete throws, so I was happy with the o-line's play," said head coach Chris Ash.
Despite losing starting center Jonah Jackson earlier in the season, offensive line coach AJ Blazek has been able to plug redshirt freshman Michael Maietti into that role and he has delivered.
The line hasn't missed a beat and continues to improve every week.
Being strong in both the offensive and defensive line is what can limit blowout losses that plagued Rutgers last season. Fifth year senior right guard and captain Dorian Miller spoke after Saturday's game and credited the continuity in Blazek's system to the improved play.
Miller has been a staple in the Rutgers offensive line for years and there is no one better to speak on the noticeable improvement than him.
"I think guys are improved," he said. "I think part of it is just being in this system for another year... I think you're just seeing guys being able to fully understand what coach Blazek wants and executing."
Gone are the days of the Knights being dominated up front and the continued play of the line is what can complete the program's transition from a Big Ten doormat to a conference contender.
Junior quarterback Giovanni Rescigno plays behind the line every day and is always quick to credit it when it plays well. While he has not had good stats throwing the ball, the blocking has always been there for him to make throws.
With a 35-6 loss, there were few positives for the Rutgers football team to take out of Happy Valley, but the offensive line was definitely one of them.
"I think the o-line did a good job today, honestly," Rescigno said. "I think they did."